Book. Gift. Book.

August 29, 2009 § 8 Comments

When is a book not a gift? Umm… never?
A book is always a gift?

Scene: We’re at a birthday party for a dear friend.
She’s also a writer.
A wonderful writer (I always term writing that makes me laugh as “wonderful” writing.)
So now you know.
Her writing makes you laugh.

Anyway, she threw a sumptuous birthday party and invited her closest friends.
There were 14 of us.
HM and I are newcomers to the crowd, actually and though the youngest (isn’t that divine?!) and not the core traveler-partier-group that stays longest at the table (any table!), we enjoy everyone immensely.

Last night at the party, following drinks, appetizers, entree, and cake (3.5 hours of mixing and eating and hilarity and anecdotal discussions on politics and prayer), my friend called everyone into the den for the opening of her presents. I was suddenly on my last leg.  This happens to me on a workday night. I’m going along very well and then fatigue knocks on my door and walks in without asking. Typically at this point, I head to my room and crawl into bed with a book in my hand, yes, unopened, and HM turns the light out on my side of the bed. (I don’t witness this; I’m already deep into the Land of Nod.)

I digress.

I am not a fan of organized public gift opening. I can’t help it – I am shy as the gift giver (to have my gift opened in front of everyone? yikes) and I am shy as the gift receiver, in a crowd (how to coo over everything when indeed the very fact that someone would gift me is amazing?).

And it turns out my friend is of the sort that opens a card, reads it aloud, exclaims and passes the card around the circle.  Then she does the same with the gift. Oh my. I am hunched in a chair, head on chin, fingers ever so subtlely keeping my eyelids open. (I hear Serious Fatigue knocking at my door and amazed that others are not also experiencing it but this is, for the most part, a retired crowd and perhaps some have even caught naps today…)  Meanwhile, I note that HM is in the doorway of the room. He catches my eye and winks. I know immediately that he is poised to get me out of there.

My friend is across the room with her gift stash. I will have to travel way over there to bid her goodnight and thank her for a lovely party. I stay in my seat.

She has just opened a card, one of those hilarious ones that ties together old age and sex and poop which makes everyone laugh.Then the gift, something lovely. Then another, a box of notecards, an apron, an artful  hot plate made out of kitchenware (she loves to cook.) A bottle of Scotch. There is much cheering and clapping over this one and its accompanying card.

Then she opens our gift. I knew she wanted Natalie Goldberg’s latest book, now in softcover. This writing friend does indeed swoon over books (how could you not love her right then and there?)  And she holds the book up, and everyone says ‘what is it?’ and she answers ‘it’s Nat’s latest.’  And there is silence.

A non-writing crowd knows little of Natalie Goldberg and her classic WRITING DOWN THE BONES.
And there’s nothing wrong with that. And now, several books later, Goldberg has this new book in softcover, OLD FRIEND FROM FAR AWAY.

I wriggle in my seat. I am so uncomfortable. This is not a book crowd. Not at all. I look at HM. He knows exactly what I’m thinking  and smiles and tilts his head at the door. One minute, I mouth to him.

The book is passed around.  Oh dear, it’s not a best seller list kind of thing. I mean, it’s not anything everyone clamors to read and discuss. And so no one reacts to it. And that’s OK. It is kind of a “personal” gift, I mean, I knew she wanted it.
Pass. Pass. Pass, flip it open. Pass. There are no pictures in it.  It’s anecdotal and it’s writing exercises.

Writing exercises? Don’t we all have enough trouble doing plain old exercises? Laughter. 

And my friend looks across the room at us and says the perfect thing (and she doesn’t lie, she never lies, in fact she’s painfully honest which is another reason we are close) and says “I was hoping you would get that for me.” I feel a rush of relief .

Yes, a book can always be a gift. It’s a silent reach through all the stuff of life, something that goes in the purse, sits on the nightstand, lies open on the kitchen counter, wins the coffee table…a companion to go everywhere. Even just having it sometimes is the reward.

My friend walks us out to our car. She has decorated the shrubs in front of her house with party lights. It was a lovely evening.  We all hug.
I climb into the car and HM says he enjoyed the party greatly. And that’s another relief.

You gotta meet our friend. You will when she finishes the book she’s working on. I’ll laud it here.

Now, where’s my pillow?

Book Recommendation (as if you can’t guess what it would be…!)



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§ 8 Responses to Book. Gift. Book.

  • debnance says:

    I love your blog title. I covet it so much that I want to steal it. I will try to be good, but I really, really like it.

    Maybe I could steal the idea of it. Not Oh!, but Yes! (I wonder if someone already has that one?)

    This is the first time I’ve visited your blog, but I’m going to add you to my blogroll so I can visit again.

  • Lisa D says:

    Books make the BEST gift. If I ever get married, and if someone throws me a shower, I would love if it was a book-themed shower. Being surrounded by books that are loved by our friends and family would be a great way to start a marriage together. Of course, this assumes I marry a fellow book lover. Why can’t Barnes & Noble have a matchmaker service? Ha. Kidding.

    I am 28 and I get that wave of exhaustion. I have just never been a late night person, and it hits me like a ton of bricks and I have to graciously leave and face the ‘are you really going home already?’ comments… Tonight I am going out with some friends and am wondering – ‘how early can I go home and NOT be considered lame??’

    Happy Saturday. 🙂 Love your blog.

  • oh says:

    Debnance – thank you for stopping by! throoughly enjoyed your blog, too, BTW and yup, added you here to my blog roll. It’s time I get out and about more in book blog world, too!

    Lisa – that is a wonderful idea, a “book shower”. In fact, maybe that’s what I’ll do for a friend who will be having a baby soon…we could give her children’s book AND books for her since she’ll be around the house for awhile and enjoying quiet time with the baby! And she loves to read. Yes, yes, good idea.

    The way I see it, someone has to go home “first” in a group. So it’s ok, and surely not lame!

    Thanks for stopping by!

  • Joanne says:

    This is such a great post. I was laughing so much because I have been through the exact same experience. You handled it so well, and what a great friend to have. I have Natalie Goldberg’s books on my reading list and I should order it now! I know the fatigue thing too. Oh, fantastic post!

  • ds says:

    Dear New Friend from Far Away:
    I, too, love giving (and also receiving) books. I, too, would be sitting in the corner cringing–I hate public gift displays!! And yes, I too have a couple of Ms. Goldberg’s books floating around (absolutely Writing Down the Bones; don’t recall which other(s)).
    May your pillow be comfy. Can’t wait to meet your friend–and her book!!

  • oh says:

    Hi, Joanne, thanks for stopping by! I hope you like Goldberg’s book(s) if you get one. Her writing exercises always seem so simple, maybe silly. Then you start doing them and things open up and up and up. But that’s her non-fiction, on writing. I’ve read one or two of her fiction works. I’m sure they’re good but I can’t tell you much about them though I recall that one of the, anyway, is rather autobiographical. Anyway, there’s much to find and I think her best “prompt” when speaking to writers is “go!”

    Dear DS What a great opening to your comment! (NEW Friend…) hey and I’m glad I’m not the only one on that public gift opening thing…I am now going to take some time to get my TBR stack ready for fall, so to speak. I must, I must see what’s in the stack and line up what’s next.

  • jeanie says:

    I just laughed when I read this post, because it resonated in so many ways. The whole “sort of new group” thing. The dreaded public opening of gifts. I just hate that. I hate doing it, I hate being there when it’s done. It’s like a bizarre sort of peer pressure that really shouldn’t exist because we all have our own unique relationship with one another and the gift given reflects that, as yours did. Your friend is amazing. I just love what she said about hoping you would give that to her. True, yes. But also just perfect. Books always top my give and receive list! I bet it was her favorite present.

    (About that fatigue — oh, you nailed it!)

  • Meryl says:

    I second (or third or fourth)–I’m always happy to get a book as a gift. And one she really wanted too, a perfect gift!

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